Why Food Bloggers Fail

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I’m talking about the eight tough reasons why food bloggers fail (myself included) and how to avoid them. Blogging isn’t easy which is why I’m sharing the strategies that I’ve used to create a full-time dream job from my blog.
The 8 reasons why food bloggers fail - and how to avoid them!

Confession time.

Do you ever think to yourself, “What am I even doing? Is all this work really worth it?”

Chances are you have, it’s pretty human. If you’re a food blogger, than I pretty much KNOW that thought has crossed your mind.

As food bloggers we pour our heart and soul into our blogs and we can never really turn it off. There’s always that email, that comment, that post, that photo, that recipe that needs to be tended to. Even if you blog as a hobby, you know what I’m talking about. It’s no wonder so many blogs in general fail.

Out of the millions of blogs that exist, statistically most will go unnoticed. If your goal is for your blog to be a success, to lead to other opportunities, or even to become a full-time business, this can be a daunting prospect.

The more time you pour your heart and soul into something without a reward, the harder it is to continue doing it. That’s why so many bloggers quit or give up trying to meet their big goals. So today I want to address some of the major reasons food bloggers fail – these are all the mistakes I’ve made myself before finding success – so you might recognize and avoid them. Of course, these aren’t meant to be rules or things that you should feel ashamed or guilty about as they are completely normal and human. These are elements that in my experience can have a great impact over your success or failure.

A rising tide lifts all ships. The more other food bloggers succeed, the more opportunities are opened for all of us. I hope you find this helpful (also, there’s a little *announcement* towards the end).

I’d love to know in the comments below what the best thing you’ve done for your blog has been. Imagine if everyone shared their success… we’d all be better off!

1. Giving up too easily

The fear of failure is enough to paralyze many people, and it’s something that can unconsciously control our actions and sabotage us. The more time you pour your heart and soul into something without a reward, the harder it is to continue doing it. And guess what? Creating a successful blog takes time. It DOES NOT happen overnight.

It took four years of blogging as hobby then as a part-time endeavor before I was able to turn it into a full-time moneymaking business. But now I get to wake up everyday and do what I love and have complete freedom. Like anything worthwhile in life, building a successful blog or any other business demands time, energy, commitment, and persistence. If you focus and commit to improving just a little bit every day then you will get closer and closer to your version of success.

As Jack Canfield says in The Success Principles, practice persistence. People often quit when things are the hardest, JUST BEFORE reaching their goals. If you try long enough, you will reach your goals. Think of all the wonderful achievements and advancements that would have never been made if some of the world’s greatest thinkers had quit right when things became challenging.

If you give up you are holding hostage from the world that unique gift that only you can offer. You rob your readers of all the wonderful things you have to offer them to improve their lives and that’s just criminal!

Only amateurs allow fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, and self-doubt to cripple their efforts. Pros don’t. If you commit to always move forward, you’re already a pro.

“The reward doesn’t necessarily go to the biggest, the brightest, or the best. It goes to the one who has the courage to keep trying until success is inevitably achieved.”
—Dr. Robyn Silverman

2. Treating it like a hobby

If you want to create a blog that gets tons of traffic, inspires thousands of followers, and makes you enough money to quit your job, to stay home with your family, to own a business, to travel the world, to not worry about making ends meet, whatever your goal is, you must treat it like a business. Blogging as a hobby is one thing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (I did it for years) but if you want to achieve any real goals, open the doors to other opportunities, and make a name for yourself in this crazy blogging world, you must take things more seriously.

That means not just blogging when you feel like it; not just writing about what seems fun on a whim, and not doing things half-assed. Successful blogging requires strategy and a pledge to being a professional. This means understanding what is important and cutting out what isn’t. When you sit down at your computer, you are the CEO and your readers are the reason you’re in business. There’s no formal education, certification, test, or secret membership you need in order to blog as a professional, you just have to make up your mind that you are a pro.

Steven Pressfield discusses what it means to be a professional in his book The War of Art, arguing that a professional:

-shows up everyday, not just when you feel like it
-knows the difference between what is urgent and what’s important (you must do what’s important first)
-does her work out of love AND accepts money
-doesn’t wait for inspiration, he acts in anticipation of it
-doesn’t take external criticism to heart
-recognizes her limitations

Do these things and you will be that much closer to success.

3. Focusing only on the money

Do what you love and the money will follow. I’m sure you’ve heard this before and it’s about the most frustratingly vague platitude ever and is practically useless when you aren’t making any money. I received this advice numerous times when I was debating whether or not to follow my heart and pursue an education and career involving food.

My internal response was always “But HOW?! Where will the money come from? What do I need to do? I can’t envision how this will work! Why can’t anyone just show me? Wahhh!!!”

Somehow I ended up doing what I love and making more money than ever before. Somehow it happened. I followed my dreams, stayed true to what I wanted and what I believed in, and the money did in fact follow. I did not start my blog with the intention of making money. In fact, when I started in 2009, very few people were making significant money so I didn’t even realize it was a possibility. I blogged because I loved it and because when people started to notice they seemed to love it too.

If I had focused on only making money from the start, the value and connection offered to my readers might have been cheapened. People follow blogs because they are more personal and trustworthy than a giant corporation, media conglomerate, or unapproachable celebrity. No one wants to feel used or like they’re simply a paycheck at the end of the day. Focus on doing what you love, on serving your readers and treating them with the highest respect, and the money WILL follow. No one can tell you how, that’s for you to figure out and determine because success is highly individual. What works for you may not work for someone else, which includes what I’m writing here. There are always exceptions to the rules!

4. Quantity over quality

After my first post went viral on StumbleUpon back in the day I finally realized the potential of my blog. I began earning enough money to have a little fun and became slightly obsessed with turning out more and more content in the hopes that something else would go viral. I began posting 5 times a week. It was crazy for me – I was also working part-time and earning two degrees.

To get 5 posts cranked out every week the quality of the recipes, writing, and photography suffered greatly. It got to a point where I was just posting for the sake of posting, not because I felt the recipe was particularly wonderful, not because the content was exceptionally helpful, and not even because I wanted to.

Blah. It was awful. And so dumb. I felt like I HAD to be doing it, like the only way to be successful was by doing that. I’ve since realized that not only should you never feel guilted into doing ANYTHING ever, but that quality should always and forever come before quantity. Yes, consistency and frequent posting have been proven to be elements of many successful blogs and businesses, but what’s the point if what you’re producing doesn’t offer the world anything? It can suck the soul out of you and your blog and push your readers away.

I believe you should post as often as you can create quality content your readers will love. It’s as simple as that.

5. Fear of self promotion

For many years I had a paranoid fear of self-promotion. I thought that if I shared my own stuff too much everyone would become so annoyed they would ban my blog from their lives. So I rarely shared my stuff, not even when my cookbook was about to be released. I thought that most of my readers already knew I was releasing a cookbook and would be super annoyed if I kept promoting it. Boy was I wrong. When I polled my readers in an annual survey more than half had no idea I had a cookbook. How was this possible?! I’d talked about it plenty of times and shared pictures on social media! Well, in reality I had only shared a handful of times. What was revelatory, earth-shattering, and breaking news and information to me was just a blip on my readers’ radars.

No one else is going to take on the job of promoting your stuff for you. No one is paying that much attention to you unless you give them a reason to. If you want people to see your stuff, you have to put it right in front of them. Constantly. That means promoting on social media and within posts and emails constantly. Sure, it’s great to share the love and promote other bloggers’ content, but every action you take can either drive traffic to your site (or your product, email list, etc.) or not. You can either turn these tasks and your time into money or not.

PLUS, if you think about how often your readers are on social media, how often they read the actual content of your posts, they are likely missing out on half of what you share, if not more.

6. Getting trapped in the comparison/jealousy cycle

Jealously. That old friend. And you know what? The internet makes this whole awful cycle that much worse. In fact Seth Godin calls the internet the “envy amplifier.” Marie Forleo has a video on the subject that I recommend you watch if you haven’t already.

Basically what we see other people sharing are the best moments of their lives, carefully selected and filtered just to make you jealous (just kidding… but not really). When that other blogger shares her latest amazing success, it’s easy to immediately feel that pit in your stomach and hear that nagging voice in your head saying “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I have that?”
Most likely those same bloggers aren’t going to announce all the hardships they’ve encountered, all the times they’ve doubted their abilities, or those times they failed completely. Everyone is on his or her own journey and the only person who can define your success is YOU!

Instead of attempting to overcome feelings of envy, use them as motivation and as a guide for what goals you need to set for your own life.

A rising tide lifts all ships. When another blogger gets that awesome deal, that just opens the door for other bloggers to get similar deals. A mindset of abundance and a focus on generosity and community are so much more beneficial than feeling secretive, competitive, and defensive. Feeling genuinely happy for the success of others feel so much more amazing than envious, jealous, or bitter.

7. Trying to appeal to everyone

Let’s get real here. When you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. Seriously. To stand out in the crowded blogging world you have to have something to say. Your recipes, writing, photography, and message must reflect both your personality and the needs of your readers. The easiest way to do this is to establish a niche for your blog. A niche allows you to focus on something you love and become the expert at it. Think about all the Food Network stars. You know exactly who they are, what they stand for, and what kind of recipes you can expect from them. It’s what makes thousands of people become loyal fans.

If I could go back in time and niche down my blog from the beginning I would. Of course without the journey I did take I wouldn’t be here today, but it would be a lot easier to stand out with a clearly defined and unique topic/perceptive.

As Simon Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do but why you do it. You may not be directly selling products, but people won’t feel a strong connection with you and your blog if you have no story, no belief, if you have nothing to stand up and say.

Finding a unique corner for yourself in the blog world and sharing your story and the reason why you blog doesn’t mean you have to pigeonhole yourself or feel trapped for all eternity. The great thing about blogs is that they can evolve.

8. Focusing too much on yourself

This is one of the most important shifts in thinking I have made since deciding to “go pro.” Your readers are your most valuable assets, without them your blog would speak to no one, help no one, and make no money. Focusing on serving your readers, on creating content they will LOVE not only creates a loyal following, but it also makes it so you will only attract readers who will be perfect for your blog. I have a post-it note on my computer that lists all the things I strive to accomplish with everything I do for the blog:

-Be the answer.
-Be useful.
-Engage.
-Provide value.
-Create something worth finding.
-How can I serve my readers?

An Announcement!

Did you find this interesting? If so, you’ll probably love the new project I’m working on called Food Blog Academy. Feel free to signup just below to receive more blogging articles, tips, tricks, and tutorials straight to your inbox. If you want to go a step further and enroll to receive exclusive training on how to transform your blog into your dream job, be sure to check it out here. Happy blogging!



Leave a Reply to Rachel @ Athletic Avocado

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  1. #
    Susan — January 11, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Even though I’m not a food blogger, I was very interested in what you have written. Especially the part about jealousy. If you are genuinely happy for others who are successful, not only do you feel better, but it also shows an attitude that is attractive to others, which would by definition lead to increased success. Our attitudes send strong messages to others, so it pays to have a positive attitude. Messages don’t have to be verbal to be strong. Non-verbal messages definitely affect how others see you and therefore how they treat you – I learned this lesson in my work many years ago.

    • #
      Tessa — January 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Such good points, Susan. For someone like myself who has a hard time disguising my emotions, my non-verbal messages are often out of my control so I’d better have a good attitude or else I’m in trouble!!

  2. #
    Dana @ 3boysunprocessed — January 11, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    I can totally relate to the self promotion thing. I’m always thinking “Maybe people are annoyed.” In reality I don’t post on any social network enough to annoy anyone. Glad I’m not the only one who feels that way!

  3. #
    Anetta @ The Wanderlust Kitchen — January 11, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I am so familiar with all of these!! I loved reading this – it’s so nice to feel connected to you through our shared experiences 🙂

  4. #
    Christy Denney — January 11, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Tessa,
    I love what you wrote here. Can I just direct people here when they say they want to start a blog. You are articulate, you are honest, and your are true to yourself. And I totally hear you on the self promo thing. I’m always trying to no be annoying and yet a lot of people don’t know about my cookbook either. It’s a constant inner struggle with me. Being exposed but not too exposed. I’m crazy 🙂 Christy

  5. #
    Melissa T — January 11, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I’ve been doing the food blog thing for maybe 8-ish months now, and what I’ve finally recently discovered is that just commenting (like this!) on some of the more well-established bloggers’ posts is a great way to get your name, your blog out there and almost kind of start to network with other people who share your passion. It can be really discouraging when I think about if anyone (besides my parents…) reads my blog posts. But then once in a while, I discover a “famous” food blogger puts a nice comment on one of my little posts, someone who I’ve left comments for on some of their posts, and it’s kind of thrilling to have that small connection and feel successful for just a moment!

  6. #
    Rachel @ Athletic Avocado — January 12, 2015 at 6:13 am

    I find this very helpful! Thanks s much!

  7. #
    The Bearfoot Baker — January 12, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I think this is a good post for anyone who has or is planning on starting a blog. Thanks for sharing and I am pinning now!

  8. #
    marcie — January 12, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Everything in this post — so true! I’ve gone through just about all of this at one point or another and remind myself about what’s important all the time. I signed up for your Food Blog Academy and can’t wait to hear more!

  9. #
    Paige R — January 12, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    As a new blogger, this post is so encouraging. Being able to relate to many of the feelings/worries that you expressed are comforting. I completely agree with the “niche” you mentioned. I am currently focusing on finding my niche and I know it will only enhance the quality of my posts. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  10. #
    Laura — January 12, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    This is so helpful and your perspective is very encouraging. I appreciate your tips and I have signed up for food blog academy, with excitement to receive more. Thanks for sharing!

  11. #
    Kathy — January 14, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    as a new bloggers I really enjoyed reading your post. There are days you do wonder if anyone besides your family is reading the blog. No one talks about all the technical programming skills needed to run a blog.

  12. #
    Andrea {Chocolate and Sea Salt} — January 14, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Tessa,

    This is awesome. I am brand new to the food blog world so I am soaking up as much information as i can possibly get! Thanks for these tips, as it’s certainly very helpful. And OH, Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk that you mentioned is a definite favorite of mine. Love that yougave that a shout out! Because it’s so true. Anyway, just wanted to share that note because I appreciated this post AND love your blog!

    Thanks so much.
    Andrea

  13. #
    Annie @ Annie's Noms — January 15, 2015 at 10:36 am

    This is such a great post Tessa! I’ve only been blogging full time for 6 months and this is the year that I really want to dedicate myself to being the best I can be and creating the best content. It’s so hard to not compare ourselves to others – I do sometimes struggle with this still, but I’m getting a lot better. I’ve realised it’s not a good use of my time being jealous or comparing myself – I should be putting that energy into doing what I love.
    I went through a phase of trying to get out as many posts as possible in a week as well, but I can admit now that they were a bit crap. I just didn’t have the time to put into making a post perfect as I was firing them out so quick! Now I manage 2 recipes a week, I sometimes feel this isn’t enough, but then I think, that those 2 recipes are the best quality I can do and that is what I can manage at the moment with other things going on.
    When I started my blog, I didn’t know you could make a living from it, I barely knew what AdSense was! I just started sharing things I made, whilst still finishing off a degree at that time, so blogging really was just a hobby, but when I graduated I had “the talk” with my partner about taking that leap of faith into blogging as a job – I wasn’t making any money at all really, but I just loved (and still love) it – you’re right money did happen afterwards, but I still find it weird to call myself a professional anything or promote myself! I used to tweet about a post once and then wonder why no one commented! You’re so right – the internet moves so fast you constantly have to be on your A game with social media! Feel like I’ve been through most of these points, but I’m determined to keep working my butt off!

  14. #
    Susie — January 18, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Love the post. I found your blog from your popular chocolate chip cookie experiment, that exemplifies point 4 perfectly. From the moment I saw that post, and how viral it went with big media, I’ve thought of you as a guidepost for the quality over quantity mantra. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  15. #
    Amanda — January 18, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Hallelujah! Thank you for this honest blog post and trying to help other bloggers without reeling us in to “buy” or “unlock” ways to make our blogs work. My husband sent me a link to your post this morning with the hope I would realise my feelings are shared. I yo-yo from bouncing positivity about how fabulous it is to write out of the love of it and connecting with people and making them laugh, through to the downside of an child like tantrum dramatically declaring “Who cares! Why bother!” Only to wake the next day refreshed and renewed to write and share more content. Every point you wrote resonates…thank you for letting us know we’re not alone!

  16. #
    Sarah @ Sarah's Bake Studio — January 22, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Another great post, Tessa, although I may have read them out of order. I am really enjoying this series and will definitely be checking out your Food Blog Academy. All your points are so true! Thanks!

  17. #
    Kimberly/TheLittlePlantation — January 29, 2015 at 2:27 am

    Thank you :)!

  18. #
    Katie @The Semisweet Sisters — February 1, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading it. You were so honest!

  19. #
    Fa's Kitchen — April 16, 2015 at 3:31 am

    Great post!! Totally agree with each and every point. I am just a newbie in the blogging world, am happy to come across this post so early.

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